On the 13th May, Greener Leith sent a new volunteer, Emma, on an expenses paid trip to the 2nd National Active Travel Conference in Perth to find out a bit about what was going on. In a week when we discovered that the new City of Edinburgh Council Head of Transport, Marshall Poulton, has committed to boosting the amount of cycling undertaken in the city to 15% of all journeys by 2020, here is Emmas report:
“What the future for Active Travel in Scotland should be in 2040” was a central theme of the second national Active Travel conference ‘Walking, Cycling, Connecting Communities’. In a Scotland where 69% of people travel to work by car; 11.8% walk; 1.6% cycle and 13.5% take public transport, conference delegates and presenters debated the possibility of a ‘preferred future’ where walking and cycling are the natural choices for short journeys.
Among the speakers from Scotland were Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, the Scottish Government and John Nelson from the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Programme in Dumfries
John Whitelegg, Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at John Moores University talked about overcoming obstacles to sustainable transport in England and the Freiburg model in Germany, which has helped give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Here, a range of interventions have developed including speed reduction measures (20 and 7 k.p.h. zones), bike parks (e.g. near railway stations) and no car zones. Joining the conference from Canada, Gil Penalosa shared experiences of Walk and Bike for Life, a not for profit organization, which is dedicated to improving awareness of the benefits of walking and cycling for local communities www.walkandbikeforlife.org/index.html
I attended a workshop on the concept of ‘invisible infrastructure’, described by Steve Essex, from Transport Initiatives as area wide measures that are cycle friendly rather than cycle specific measures (e.g. cycling paths and tracks). Among the invisible infrastructure are traffic reduction and calming measures, junction treatment and traffic management and redistribution of the carriageway. These measures can help generate a cycle friendly environment with wider benefits, particularly where there is less ‘will’ for cycle friendly policies. www.transport-initiatives.com/home.htm
While the vast majority of presenters and attendees were naturally in favour of the ‘preferred future’, there was both optimisim and pessimism whether this preferred future could be achieved. Those more optimistic talked about previous examples of radical change in Scotland, e.g. Land Reform and the smoking ban and that in some local areas, sustainable transport was already a local priority issue. The impact of other external drivers – namely obesity, climate change and oil were seen to add impetus to drive change. For those more pessimistic, the continued funding challenge, need for transformational change and perceived lack of political and public will and continued value placed on the car were seen as major obstacles to change.